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Montenegro seeks a share of the earnings from the Bileća Lake

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Montenegro will attempt to capitalize on a portion of the Bileća Lake reservoir, where Bosnia and Herzegovina has four hydroelectric power plants, given that one-fifth of the lake is within Montenegrin territory.

The Bileća Lake is an artificial reservoir formed in 1965 by the construction of a dam on the Trebišnjica River, which serves as the border between Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically the Republika Srpska entity.

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Four-fifths of the lake’s surface area is in the municipality of Bileća in Republika Srpska, while one-fifth, or 18%, belongs to the municipality of Nikšić in central Montenegro.

Numerous attempts by Montenegro in previous decades to negotiate its share of this hydroelectric potential with Bosnia and Herzegovina have been unsuccessful.

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The Montenegrin government under Prime Minister Milojko Spajić believes “it is high time for Montenegro to capitalize on this potential.”

According to the Ministry of Energy, Montenegro never provided written consent for the realization of the hydroelectric system, and the approval was granted by the Federal Water Commission of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia without Montenegro’s written consent.

The Montenegrin government emphasizes that the issue concerns three states, several ministries, and institutions, and they will act on three fronts: determining Montenegro’s rights in the valorization of the Bileća Lake waters, negotiating compensation for using the lake waters, and compensation for submerged land.

The Ministry suggests that arbitration or recourse to the International Court may be necessary to resolve this issue. They argue that Montenegro undoubtedly has rights to the Bileća Lake waters under both domestic and international laws.

They cite the Helsinki Rules on the Use of Waters of International Rivers and the UN Convention on the Law of Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses.

The Ministry emphasizes that Montenegro is entitled to use the Bileća Lake waters according to all relevant domestic and international regulations and laws. They also believe that a judicial process would be costly and that a solution must be sought through negotiations.

Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske (EPRS) is ready for discussions regarding the Bileća Lake reservoir.

“We are aware of the initiatives and proposals from Montenegro and within Elektroprivreda Crne Gore. As a result, several meetings have been held on this topic. We are ready to discuss both the past and the future,” the response from EPRS stated.

Previously, the director of Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske, Luka Petrović, expressed the view that Montenegro “has no claim because it did not participate in the construction of the power plants.” Whether Petrović still holds this stance was not clarified in the response to RFE.

At the same time, EPRS invites the leaders of Montenegro’s Elektroprivreda to discuss the construction of the Buk Bijela hydroelectric power plant, suggesting that it would bring much greater benefits to Montenegro.

Regarding Croatia’s stance on Montenegro’s request, it is not known as the Ministry of Economy there did not respond to RFE’s inquiry.

Contradictory opinions from experts exist on this matter. Montenegrin hydrologist Slavko Hrvačević believes that Montenegro is the loser by not resolving this issue, while Belgrade-based university professor Branislav Đorđević, an expert in natural resources for the European Council, believes that this issue cannot be shifted from the time it originated.

Đorđević emphasizes that Montenegro did not participate in its construction, although it was offered the opportunity to do so. He also considers the calculations of Montenegro’s losses to be unrealistic.

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